/ The Phoenix Traveler
Phoenix — By Heather Wright Schlichting on April 15, 2010 at 6:20 am
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Forecast for Phoenix in May: Hot and Spicy

Cinco de Mayo in Phoenix is like St. Patrick’s Day in other cities.  You don’t have to be Mexican to celebrate and it might even be more fun if you’re not.

Cinco de Mayo means “fifth of May” in Spanish. A national holiday in Mexico, it commemorates the Battle of Puebla.  On May 5, 1862 a small group of Mexican soldiers defeated a French army twice its size. Mexico had declared its independence in 1810, but there were constant struggles to maintain Mexico’s freedom for many years after the country became independent from Spanish rule. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the fortitude of the Mexican people.

I believe that it is our close proximity to Mexico and the many Mexican residents that live in Arizona that prompts the state to pay homage to this celebration which becomes bigger and better every year.  This is clearly evident with locals adding a little more spice to their life by sampling Mexican cuisine at newer restaurants serving more authentic choices.  Office parties are hosting salsa contests to crown their employees culinary skills and entrepreneurs are capitalizing on tequila drinkers and their quest to find the smoothest tequila.

So if you’ve lived in Phoenix long enough or are a recent convert and think you have the same fortitude and strong will of the Mexican people; willing to try hot and spicy salsas, tasty margaritas and flavored tequilas, then you’re up for the challenge.  Here are a few events and local hangouts that will help you celebrate the holiday to the fullest.

El Pedregal (map) is hosting its fourth annual Salsa Challenge on Saturday, May 1.  The chefs from area restaurants including The Spotted Donkey, El Encanto, Harold’s Cave Creek Corral, Dos Diablos and Tonto Bar & Grill will show off their culinary skills and try to “wow” us with their salsa recipes competing for “The Best Salsa in the Valley.”  Mariachis will keep you dancing while you sample the tastiest salsas in the Valley.

Chihuahua Races in Downtown Chandler

In Historic Downtown Chandler, the annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration on Saturday, May 1 will feature music, food and dancing.  The annual Chihuahua Races make it fun for the whole family!  Over 185 dogs participated last year and they’re expecting even more this year.  For festival goers who want to see something faster than these little dogs a Car Show and a beer garden are two new features.

The 17th annual 12 News Cinco de Mayo Phoenix Festival 2010 is the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the Southwest. This two day family festival located in downtown Phoenix on May 1 and 2 features live entertainment including local bands, ballet folklorico and authentic Mexican food. Admissions is $5 for adults; children 12 and under are free.

Also, many local bars, restaurants and nightclubs like Salty Senorita, Dos Gringos and Macayos will offer special happy hours and dinner events to please any Cinco de Mayo partier.

Cinco de Mayo is a time when everyone feels a little bit Mexican in their soul.  So, eat a hot tamale and make your prize-winning salsa for friends and family to celebrate another great day in the Southwest.

Photos courtesy of flickr – ballet folklorico and Cinco de Mayo

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